The Chargers head into the 2020 season with high expectations, but steep competition. Over the off-seaso, their franchise quarterback Phillip Rivers left in free agency, and they traded their feature back, Melvin Gordon, to the Broncos. This doesn't mean they're rebuilding though. A serviceable QB in Tyrod Taylor is under center, and they chose Justin Herbert in the 1st round of the 2020 draft. Gordon's old backup, Austin Ekeler has proven that he can take the load himself.
Ekeler isn't just a runner, but is also a major weapon in the passing game, catching 92 balls last season for just under 1000 yards and 8 touchdowns last season. He also rushed for just over 500 yards, while sharing the workload with Gordon.
Keenan Allen headlines the receiving corp, but he isn't the only guy that can make plays out wide. Former Clemson Tiger Mike WIlliams is also extremely dangerous, when he can stay on the field, but injuries have slowed him down over the past two seasons. In 2018, Williams had 10 touchdowns, and in 2019, even while missing a couple of games, he racked up 1001 receiving yards.
Tight end Hunter Henry is one of the premier guys at his position, which helps both the passing and running games. The Chargers also added to their offensive line, which makes everything easier. Pro bowler Bryan Bulaga came over from the Packers, guard Trai Turner from the Panthers, and center Mike Pouncey from Miami. Shoring up the line helps gives the Chargers different looks on offense.
The offense is good, but where this team makes their money is on the defensive side of the ball. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram bookend a stellar defensive line. Backed by Kyzir White, Denzel Perrymen, and rookie Kenneth Murray, their front seven should be stout. The secondary lost their anchor in safety Derwin James for the season, but Nasir Adderly and Rayshad Jenkins play the position at a very high level. Chris Harris came over from Denver in the offseason, and along with Casey Hayward, these two are one of the better cornerback tandems in the league.
The team we know now as the LA Chargers, actually started there in 1960, as a member of the AFL. They made the move to San Diego a year later, and became part of what we know today as the NFL during the 1970 merger as a member of the AFC. Nine of their ten seasons in the AFL ended with a winning record, reaching the AFL championship game three times in their first 4 years, finally winning it in 1963.
After joining the NFL, it would take the 10 seasons to reach the playoffs again, losing to the Houston Oilers in 1979. In 1980, they got to the AFC championship, only to lose to the rival Raiders. The Chargers made the AFC championship game two more times, losing both, to the Bengals in 1981, and to the Bills in the strike shortened 1982 season.
In 1994, the Chargers made it to their first Super Bowl, but lost to the San Francisco 49ers. After that it would take until the 2004 draft and trade for quarterback Phillip Rivers for them to make it back to the playoffs.
Before they drafted Rivers, the Chargers took their future franchise running back LaDainian Tomlinson 5th overall in the 2001 NFL Draft, and took a chance in 2003 on an undrafted college basketball player named Antonio Gates. After adding Rivers in 2004, San Diego went on a tear, winning the AFC West 5 out of the next 6 years, and just missing the Super Bowl in 2007.
Tomlinson would win the MVP that year, and Gates would catch 75 passes for just under 1000 yards and nine touchdowns. Unfortunately, the big tight end missed the playoffs due to an injury; he almost certainly would have helped the Chargers get to the Super Bowl had he not missed the time.
Gates retired after the 2018 season with 116 TD catches, including a record-setting 89 from Rivers. No other QB-TE combo has that many. Tomlinson retired after playing for the Jets, but in 2012 he signed a 1-day contract with the Chargers before announcing he was officially leaving the game. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2017.
Other notable former Chargers are Charlie Joiner, Dan Fouts, coach Don Coryell (who created the air-raid system that made the previous two famous), Junior Seau, Natrone Means, Vincent Jackson, Lionel "Little Train" James, Kellen Winslow, Lance Alworth, Rodney Harrison, and Eric Weddle.
Since the Chargers play in the AFC West, they have to deal with the reigning Super Bowl champs, the Kansas City Chiefs. Knocking them off at the top of the division will be a challenge, and even with the new rules allow 7 teams in the playoffs, as strong as the AFC is this year, LA may have a tough year ahead of them. The Chargers will need to play nearly perfect football and make very few mistakes to make their way into the playoffs.
Los Angeles Chargers Betting Preview
The former San Diego Chargers have gone through a few seasons of rapid change in the last couple years — uprooting from their former home and overhauling an offense that featured Philip Rivers at quarterback for a decade and a half. With two first round picks in the socially affected 2020 NFL Draft, Chargers GM Tom Telesco and the rest of the management team went about re-defining the now LA based franchise, hopefully acquiring faces of the offense and defense for years to come. With eyes on the future, question marks surrounding the 2020-2021 Chargers remain about how effective they will be in the present.
Key Offseason Moves:
CB Chris Harris
DT Linval Joseph
OT Brian Bulaga
QB Justin Herbert
QB Tyrod Taylor
LB Kenneth Murray
After finishing 5-11 in Rivers' last run as Chargers play caller, Los Angeles added big names across the roster in veterans like 31-year-old defensive back Chris Harris and rookies like Herbert and Murray. Tyrod Taylor was brought in to run the offense for head coach Anthony Lynn while sixth overall pick Justin Herbert waits in the wings. Herbert was projected as one of the top picks in the 2019 draft but elected not to declare, and returned to Oregon for a rocky final season which saw him fall to the third quarterback off the board in 2020. I would suggest avoiding all player props for 2020 Chargers quarterbacks because the job could be given from one to the other at any point in the season.
Later in the first round the Chargers added Oklahoma product Murray, who was picked ahead of fellow first-round LB Patrick Queen (was drafted a few picks later by the Baltimore Ravens. Drafted at 23rd overall, Murray spent much of his time in college succeeding stopping the run and spying the quarterback, but early reports out of Chargers camp signal he will be asked to drop into pass coverage more often. Murray provides some of the best value for award betters in 2020, at the seventh best odds for AFC defensive rookie of the year (+2100).
While the draft picks were the gems of the Chargers offseason, Harris, Bulaga and Joseph were all some of the top available free agents, and will keep the Lynn's squad in contention in a tough AFC division while Herbert takes over as face of the franchise.
QB Philip Rivers
RB Melvin Gordon
Rivers and Gordon combined for over 280 games started for the San Diego/LA Chargers, and now they are both gone. Rivers signed a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts (where he will now start in place of Jacoby Brissett), and Gordon signed with the Denver Broncos to complete a backfield highlighted by former undrafted free agent Philip Lindsay. The losses likely hurt more for fans than they do for on-field production, as both Rivers and Gordon struggled to carry the Chargers deep into the playoffs in recent seasons — and Gordon lost many of his snaps to new starting RB Austin Ekeler.
Top Three Players:
WR Keenan Allen
DE Joey Bosa
S Derwin James* (Injured)
After missing more than half of his rookie season in 2018, Bosa broke out in a big way last year racking up 11.5 sacks, 25 hurries, 16 knockdowns and 54 presses. Bosa, like brother Nick of the 49ers, is one of the best ends in the NFL and is relied upon — alongside Melvin Ingram III — to disrupt opposing passers all game long and let the secondary turn the ball over. That secondary, however, took a massive blow in 2020 when star safety, James, suffered a meniscus injury that will sideline him for the entire season. The 24-year-old James was a star in his first two seasons, snagging three interceptions, tackling 139 enemies, and even registering 3.5 sacks, he did however, play only five games in 2019 due to injury. Regardless of the 2020 injury, the two 2018 draft picks — Bosa and James — are poised to headline a Charger defense for the next decade. Bosa has the 10th best odds at AP defensive player of the year, behind his brother and some of the leagues other top defenders.
On the other side of the ball is one of the most underrated pass catchers in the league, who will look to make life easy for Tyrod Taylor and soon Herbert — Keenan Allen. Allen, who recently signed a four-year $80.1 million extension, is heading into the eighth year of his career and has already caught over 34 touchdowns and over 6,400 yard in the air. Even with an aging Rivers, Allen brought down 104 of 149 targets for 1199 yards and six touchdowns. Allen's consistency will be one of the few 'sure things' for the new Chargers offense.
Team Win Total: 8
Though the Chargers have the talent to be a .500 win team on paper, much of the reason I would suggest taking the under on their 2020 win total resides in the strength of their schedule. Though Tyrod Taylor led teams have had success in the past, the Chargers must play six combined games against the dominant Chiefs, scrappy Raiders, and up-and-coming Broncos as well as NFC games against a tough NFC South division.
Odds to win Division: +700
The Chargers have the second best odds to win the AFC West, behind the defending Super Bowl Champs, but I would suggest staying away from these odds. Even before James went down for the year, the Chiefs had all but locked up another AFC West title, and, while no team will do it, +700 is simply not good enough odds to justify picking against them.
Odds to Win Super Bowl: +4000
While it is extremely unlikely that the Chargers, who were one of the worst teams in the league in 2019, will vault themselves into Super Bowl contention, there is enough unknown (both good and bad) about the team that their odds should at least be considered. A big season from Herbert as a rookie could do wonders for the offense, but with Derwin James sidelined for the entire season they are still unlikely to to make a February run, let alone make the playoffs.
7-9, Third in the AFC West, Miss the Playoffs